21/07/2001

Tom Tackles the Chalet School (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)


Elinor M Brent-Dyer was a prolific writer, and I've enjoyed her books for over thirty years. Staying in a house with dozens of Chalet School books, I find myself reading lots of them - although in fairly random order - as a quick means of relaxation.

'Tom Tackles the Chalet School' features a girl, who insists on being called Tom although it clearly isn't her name, and it's not an abbreviation of Thomasina. She's a very boyish and determined girl, who doesn't in the least want to go to a girls' school. Brought up amongst boys, she is convinced that girls are sneaky and dishonest, and that only boys understanding concepts like loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship.

Slightly surreal in today's climate of equality, it presumably was a realistic (if unlikely) possibility in the middle of the 20th century when this book was published. Anyway, Tom is determined to look down on everyone at the Chalet School when she arrives. But she finds - to her amazement - that girls are as honest as boys, and she slowly begins to settle in.

Terribly sexist, of course, but quite enjoyable on the whole.

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